Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Sir Peter Scott's Legacy

In 1984, when I was the chief executive of the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society (now Fauna & Flora International, FFI), I edited a book published for the National Trust -- The National Trust Book of British Wild Animals. And the foreword to this volume was written by Sir Peter Scott, the eminent naturalist, conservationist and broadcaster, who at that time was Chairman of the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society.

Sir Peter Scott concluded his foreword with the following paragraph:

"As the world's tropical forests disappear to become chipboard or make way for the grazing of beef cattle, one can only regret that the National Trust does not have an international counterpart.... At this time the importance of land acquisition, and preservation, and the power to declare it 'inalienable' is vitally important if we are to pass on to our children the still significant richness of wildlife we inherited from our parents."

Five years later I had left the Fauna & Flora Preservation Society and was starting what was to become the World Land Trust, but in 1989 when Sir Peter died, it was only a single project, fundraising for Programme for Belize. I can only think now how delighted Sir Peter would have been to see the World Land Trust really develop into what it is today. Throughout my early days in international conservation he had always been a source of encouragement and inspiration, and Vivien Burton worked as his Conservation Assistant at the Wildfowl Trust (now the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust)in Slimbridge, before finally moving to Suffolk after we married in 1980.

It was only when skimming through the National Trust book, that I was reminded of Sir Peter Scott's support for the concept of land acquisition -- support that Lady Philippa Scott has continued, and Sir Peter has indeed supported posthumously through his foundation.

It is slightly depressing to me to find that many of the younger generation no longer relise the huge contribution made to conservation by Sir Peter Scott and his generation. His name, together with Julian Huxley, Max Nicolson, and a dozen more being almost unknown to the generation emerging from university today. There is a lot to learn from history. Particularly natural history.

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